The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a very general metric one can use to ‘feel out’ stock market performance. Merriam-Webster defines the word “dow” as useful or capable, but the old English dictates ‘having worth’ as the initial utilization of the term. Nasdaq, the second largest stock exchange, is purely the tech market on display; its ebbs and flows reflect trading activity for publicly-traded technology companies.
Prior to 9/11 the stock market climbed above 13,000 points; after it sunk to around 8,000. Worse yet was the aftermath of the crisis in 2008 when stocks fell into the 6,000 range. Before this past Election Day, the Dow held strong in the high 12,000s with multiple days hovering around 13,300. This level was reached during some of our nation’s better financial times over the past two decades. But if the stock market is doing so well, why are so many still unable to find work and struggling?
The short answer is the job market is not necessarily reflective of the stock market. The New York Times, CNN and the Bureau of Labor Statistics have recognized and reported on how our job pool does not adequately sustain employees; many jobs have rendered the term “living wage” virtually irrelevant. Other sources reveal that there has been a turnaround; in past years, 70-80 percent of workers held full-time positions, but in this current economic environment it’s the exact opposite. That’s right; 70-80 percent of workers are now only part-time in the work force. This means that more than one job must be held in order to make ends meet at the same level. Accompanied by this new reality is the absence of benefits and overtime — and this is contributing to the eradication of close to half the social contract which employers agree to when utilizing a labor force. Benefits such maternity leave, sick leave, paid vacation time and weekends off are not always part of the part-time employees’ compensation package. Items that are taken for granted abroad are disappearing from the workers’ ‘rights’ within the U.S.
Losing those aspects of a worker-employer contract can diminish overall quality of work life. Unarguably. When the stock market begins to lose its pulse on the ground floor of the economy, when those at the bottom are fighting as hard as they can to get work — even if it means suffering the short-term poor conditions to make ends meet, and when these things aren’t addressed whilst being tied together (as they ultimately should be; cause and effect) — then we have the antithesis of what benefits all.